The Relationship between the Accreditation Process and Perceptions of Efforts for Continuous Improvement in Catholic Elementary Schools in Texas
This study investigated the perceptions of Texas Catholic elementary school personnel concerning whether the accreditation process as defined by the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department (TCCED) leads to substantiated efforts toward on-going continuous improvement to meet Texas Catholic Conference education standards. The history of the Catholic accreditation process in Texas provided a basis for connecting a review of the literature with formal accreditation studies conducted by Minard (2002), Verges (2003), and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (2006). The works of Hampel, Johnson, Plank, and Ravitch (1996), Sebring, Allensworth, Bryk, Easton, and Leppescue (2006) and Leithwood, Janti, and McElheron-Hopkins (2006) established the theoretical framework for school improvement efforts. Senge (2006) and Kruse (2001) contributed to the theoretical framework for continuous improvement and learning organization theories. An examination of the work of Guerra, Haney, and Kealey (1991) as well as a review of church documents served as a basis for exploring Catholic identity. Administrators, teachers, counselors, librarians, and support staff employed in Texas Catholic elementary schools provided 705 responses to an anonymous on-line survey. Both quantitative and qualitative data were gathered and analyzed to discover varying perspectives from the participants in this research study. The major finding of this research study is the strong belief by Texas Catholic elementary school personnel that the TCCED accreditation process is necessary for local continuous improvement efforts. School personnel agree that key stakeholders are sufficiently involved in the process although administrators do not view this involvement as strongly as do teachers and professional staff members. While the respondents agree that the 10-year cycle of the TCCED accreditation process produces both short and long-term improvements, they note long-term improvements occurring more frequently. Administrators perceive accreditation standards and expectations to be clearer than do teachers and professional staff members. In addition, respondents who have been trained to serve or have actually served on an accreditation team are more likely to perceive the process as necessary for educational quality in Texas Catholic elementary schools. There are varying perceptions by administrators, teachers, and professional staff members regarding local school improvement efforts resulting from the last accreditation visit. Finally, improvements to technology are most often cited as a specific example of program improvements that were made as a result of the last accreditation visit. The conclusions of this research study have implications for the Texas Catholic Conference as it approaches possible revisions to the upcoming fourth state Catholic accreditation cycle. Furthermore, the results provide direction for Texas Catholic school superintendents and principals as they seek to assist their schools in providing quality education in all of their elementary schools.
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